Chicó v Bucaramanga
After newly promoted Chicó’s exceptional start to life back in the top flight, winning six out of their first nine games, the wheels have started to come off the Tunja club in recent weeks. With just one win in their last six, Chicó have slipped off their perch at the top of the table and will do well to even qualify for the top eight of the title race. There’s no doubt that Chicó have still done far better than anyone would have expected at the start of the season, especially considering that about 80% of their starting XI is the same side that got relegated two years ago. But Chicó were massively helped by the luck of the fixture list at the start of the season when all their easy home games were piled together. Now though, they’re stuck in the mud of a wretched run. This game is the exception, however. Chicó’s strength this season, as is usually the case, has been their home form, where they remain undefeated and winning every game except two.
Their Tunja home is located at the highest altitude in Colombian football. It’s cold, usually raining and they play on a pitch that’s purposefully left to be a bit wild. Playing Chicó is a bit like your rainy Tuesday night in Stoke, and away teams hate the fact that there’s no airport in Tunja which requires a torturous six-hour return bus ride from Bogotá. One other factor that seems to have favoured Chicó this season has been the less prominent role that club owner Eduardo Pimentel has played. He’s usually a regular in the league’s weekly disciplinary report, once banned for eight matches for punching a referee. But this year he’s barely been seen and that’s surely had a calming influence on the changing room.
Opponents Bucaramanga can’t buy a win at the moment. After having lost their two main men from 2022, Sherman Cardenas and Dayro Moreno, the club are on a 12-match winless streak and already have nothing left to play for in this Apertura championship. With Chicó needing one win to qualify for the next round, they look likely to again hammer home their home advantage, much to the displeasure of Bucaramanga’s players who are simply playing out the fixture list.
IFK Göteborg v IFK Norrköping
IFK Göteborg’s season went from bad to worse last week, being beaten 1-0 by title contenders Djurgården. The scoreline wasn’t resounding but the performance gulf was, with IFK creating 0.48 xG to Djurgården’s 2.54. They now sit rock bottom and are the only team without any points on the board, with no goals scored and 5 conceded. In only one of four matches, they have managed 10 shots or more, with xG not exceeding 1 in any of these. The attacking inability is a real problem, with a lack of creativity meaning few chances are being made. More worryingly, structurally they do not allow for any sort of decent ball progression and therefore their moves break down much too easily.
It is inexplicable that there is still no new manager after the sacking of Mikael Stahre, and with the situation continuing this way, it’s hard to see how things can improve. They are said to be on the hunt for both a head coach and a sporting director, with both searches being unsuccessful to date. The club is in real trouble and they need to get things together soon or risk getting relegated to Superettan.
IFK Norrköping have one of the league’s best players in Arnor Sigurdsson, while veterans Nyman and Traustason still have plenty in the tank to make a difference. There are some holes in the squad and a few questions defensively, but if everything comes together they should be able to push for a good league finish this year. They sit in 5th and while the 3-0 defeat last weekend was a bump in the road, Malmö were very efficient in taking their chances. The three prior matches showed some positive signs and the team can be expected to continue on that path going forward.
There is no indication of a change of fortunes for IFK Göteborg, and with a strong visiting side, we can expect more dropped points for the pride of Gothenburg.
Mallorca v Athletic Club
With it being a national holiday in Spain, there’s a double header of fixtures on Monday evening, though the first of them is unlikely to provide a spectacle of football. 80% of Mallorca’s matches at the Estadi Mallorca Son Moix this season have ended with under 2.5 goals, while half of Athletic Club’s have also ended with less than 2.5 goals.
Athletic’s 1-0 defeat to Sevilla in midweek put an end to a run of six games unbeaten in all competitions, which was primarily built upon defensive solidity and their inconsistent attackers finding their scoring boots. Despite being at home against Sevilla, they failed to register a single shot on target and failed to score for the second time in their last three home matches.
Mallorca will not make it any easier for them away from San Mamés. Only Villarreal have scored more than one goal as an opponent in La Palma all season, and only league leaders Barcelona have conceded fewer goals at home than Mallorca’s 11 in 15 games.
Javier Aguirre’s side have become a very tough team to beat, particularly at home, and have produced some magnificent defensive displays against teams chasing European football like Athletic. Ernesto Valverde and his team will need all their offensive nous to find a way to break down the Mallorca defence.
FC Midtjylland v Silkeborg
Motivation could play a big role in this match, as the home side are fighting for a spot in European football next season, while Silkeborg are all in on the cup and might down-prioritize the league.
Midtjylland received a gift Friday evening as OB had to settle for a draw against Horsens. This means Midtjylland can go five points ahead in the fight for the last European ticket. The Wolves remain undefeated under head coach Thomas Thomasberg and have won three of their last five games with another two draws. Last week, they defeated Horsens 2-0 away, and the confidence should be high in Herning these days. Midtjylland could even get striker Astrit Selmani back from an injury as he scored twice in a reserve match Monday.
Silkeborg are playing the cup semifinal Thursday next week, and Kent Nielsen’s troop should have full focus on reaching the final as they have nothing left to play for in the Superliga. It is unknown whether Silkeborg rests key players, but it is not unlikely. Silkeborg drew 1-1 at home in the first semifinal so they have to travel to Aalborg and get a result away against AaB to qualify for the final. Neither the cup game nor this one against Midtjylland will be easy though. Silkeborg have won just one of their previous eight games, and their last Superliga victory was on March 5th. They’ll be without Joel Felix, Lukas Engel, Andreas Oggesen and Gustav Dahl due to injuries.
Midtjylland should win this game. They are better on paper, and they have much more to play for in this fixture. Silkeborg are likely to focus on next week’s cup semifinal, and we recommend you bet on FCM to win at odds 1.73 at Betfair Sportsbook.
Sevilla v Girona
Girona hit the headlines with their surprise beating of Real Madrid on Tuesday night and come into this game with an extra 48 hours of rest, but Sevilla are one of the teams of the moment in LaLiga and will be confident of extending their impressive run of form after securing an injury-time winner against Athletic Club on Thursday.
Sevilla have only lost one and drawn one, while winning five, of seven home games in LaLiga at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán in 2023 and have picked up significantly under new coach José Luis Mendilibar. They are now unbeaten in their last seven games in all competitions and could climb into the top half should they beat Girona.
Girona are free-scoring but have struggled on the road, with two points from their last four away matches, including defeats to relegation candidates Real Valladolid and Getafe. Sevilla will pose a much tougher test, but Girona coach Míchel is unlikely to apply the same defensive tactics which saw them grind out a draw at Camp Nou against Barcelona.
Given that three of Sevilla’s last four games have ended in wins to nil, Girona may be concerned about this trip to Andalusia, and with good reason. Only Barcelona and Real Sociedad have conceded less xG than Sevilla in LaLiga in the month of April, and they could well secure another shutout against Girona.
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